Friday, 16 April 2010

Boating on Bexhill 1973

The second new year boat trip of which I have a record took place over the new year of 1973/4, when the Salford University Inland Waterways Society hired "Bexhill" from Union Canal Carriers at Braunston. Bexhill was originally built for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, but had been with UCC since 1967 and was by this time converted to a "camping boat" - an arrangement whereby bunks, cooking facilities and rudimentary sanitation were provided in the hold under the cloths. As youthful canal enthusiasts we, of course, liked her because we could pretend she was still a working boat!
We did what is nowadays known as the Warwickshire Ring, along the Grand Union via Hatton to Birmingham, returning via the Birmingham and Fazeley, Coventry and Oxford Canals.
As with so many of these trips, the combination of dull winter days, cheap cameras and very slow colour slide film meant that I didn't take many photos, but we obviously had a fine sunny day for the climb up the Hatton 21!
It wasn't all sunshine. There was ice on the cut for several mornings but obviously with a boat like Bexhill these proved to be not a problem.
The other boat visible behind Bexhill in this shot is Guillemot, hired from Willow Wren by a group of planning students from Newcastle University who were "friends of friends" and with whom we had arranged to pair up for the week. At first they thought we were mad to have hired a camper in mid-winter, but such was the heat thrown out by Bexhill's engine that by the end of the week they were coming aboard Bexhill to keep warm!
Guillemot had been exchanged for Grebe, which had broken down at Braunston and was in a bit of a state, with a broken loo, no hot water and flat batteries! After finding them flat yet again one morning at the top of Farmer's Bridge we connected them up to Bexhill's engine and took them for a spin around the Soho loop to charge them up so that Guillemot's own engine could be started.
Hockley Port on the Soho loop
I don't have any photos of the rest of the trip, but it must have been a bit of a slog to get back to Braunston before the end of the hire. These winter trips involved crack of dawn starts and well-after-dark finishes every day. The hire companies must have known this, but I don't recall anyone ever saying anything about it.
As for Bexhill, she was owned for a while by the Narrow Boat Trust and also participated in the River Soar gravel traffic with Threefellows Carrying. I wondered if Sarah might have a photo of her on her Town Class Sticker Album pages, but she hasn't seen her yet.

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